Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Call for types of skills and experience

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Call for feedback: Community Board seats
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An optimal Board would be composed of trustees whose expertise encompasses the full range of work that the Wikimedia Foundation does and the full range of activities within the Wikimedia movement. That will always be a moving target, and even an expanded Board will never be able to truly achieve it. However, at the beginning of any trustee selection process the Board should assess and determine which areas of expertise are most needed. For Board-selected trustees, the Board can then target those areas in its recruiting. For community- and affiliate-selected trustees, however, a different approach is needed.

In a call for candidates at the beginning of the selection process, the Board can specify the skills and experience that it is hoping community- and affiliate-selected trustees will have. The next challenge is to determine whether the candidates have those skills and experience. The trustee evaluation form can help with that process, but there are still two key questions:

  1. What should the minimum level of expertise be? This relates to the issue of the vetting of candidates.
  2. Who is responsible for ensuring that the minimum qualifications are met? Candidates can self-report their years of relevant experience based on the qualification form, but there still needs to be some form of review. This could be done by the Board itself, likely through a Board-delegated Selection Committee, or it could be done by a Community-elected Selection Committee.

Summary of ongoing feedback[edit]

The facilitation team keeps this section in sync with the main report.

The discussion about skills and experiences had recurrent feedback about offering training to potential candidates and Board members. This feedback is captured in the section below Support to candidates.

One volunteer proposed the idea of Specialization seats. Feedback related to dedicating seats of quotas for skills is captured in the corresponding section below.

After the fourth weekly report:

Sentiment: Divided opinions in a discussion with many ramifications that is expected to continue.

Some people think community experience is the only skill required for community candidates. Others think skills to perform well as a Board member are important, and opinions differ about how strongly the filter should be applied. There is broad agreement that the Board can do more to identify skills needed, to provide training, and to proactively seek potential candidates with these skills. There are questions about how the Board plans to use the recently approved Board Candidate Evaluation Form.

About the idea of skills needed in candidates:

  • There is no agreement about the types of skills that should be required to candidates:
    • Many volunteers, especially long-term contributors, express a strong opinion about not requiring specific skills to community-and-affiliate candidates. They say the role of these trustees in the Board is to represent the community and to contribute community skills. They say that the Board has the directly appointed seats to cover specific skills required.
    • Many volunteers who have joined more recently and some long-term contributors disagree, and believe that all candidates need to have a certain skill set to aspire to a seat in the Board.
    • Each of these two positions includes volunteers who usually don’t participate in governance discussions as well as volunteers well-versed in these discussions, including former trustees.
    • Some volunteers from emerging Wikimedia communites said that some skills should be required of all candidates, irrespective of diversity quotas.
      • In meetings with the Odia and the Gujarati communities it was said that the Board is the highest decision-making authority in the movement, and skills should not be compromised.
    • In a meeting with the North Africa community it was suggested that the Board can use committees or a new advisory council delivering the skills whenever needed, keeping the Board seats for community members who win elections without requirements for specific skills. This idea also appeared in two different meetings with Women from France and Germany.
    • The director of a European chapter said non-specialists can give perspectives specialists tend to overlook, that skills shouldn’t be overrated.
    • At a meeting of the Turkic community, they wondered: what will happen if there are no candidates with specific skills?
    • One person said in an ESEAP meeting that some people improve after given the chance, that willingness to learn is important.
    • A former appointed trustee said that there isn’t any harm in having an eligibility criteria for everyone on the Board, as (according to her) it could lead to a more effective board.
    • Some volunteers said that the community should be allowed to express what skills they believe the Board should have.

Specifics about skills needed in candidates:

  • Several volunteers from different conversations mentioned skills they expect from community candidates. This is a compilation of all the skills mentioned:
    • Community experience
    • Wiki editing
    • Programmatic work in the movement
    • Mediation and negotiation
    • Management, leadership
    • Team working
    • Technical
    • Auditing, assessment
  • Some people say that training for candidates or even trustees after being elected is enough. Some say that the terms are too short to train people with insufficient skills, so a certain amount of skills might be helpful for optimal use of the term.
  • One person in a European community conversation proposed a certain amount of edits in a wiki as a required skill for all trustees, the directly appointed too.

About how to implement a call of skills:

  • There is overall agreement that needed skills should be identified by the Board and advertised well in advance.
  • One person said that the Board should be more proactive about searching for candidates in the community before the election.
  • The Board Candidate Evaluation Form was mentioned in several conversations, although it raised many questions about its intended use, and also about its effectiveness.
  • Some volunteers suggested in different conversations the idea of highlighting the skills of candidates, even if there is no hard requirement for skills.